I decided to shed any last vestige of sanity I had and go to the DMV in person to get some paperwork processed. Because no trip to the DMV is a quick errand, I decided to pack my usual survival kit: books to read, iPod, a small needlework project, a notebook to write in, a bottle of water, a Peet’s coffee and a granola bar. NO, I can not survive any time in line without these things. I freely admit that I am short-attention spanned, high-maintenance and prop heavy. And now, I’m in the queue from hell.
The DMV opens at 9:00 a.m. People are already wrapped around the building by 8:00 a.m., and most of them are acting like morons. Now, I have to take a brief detour, which is an entirely appropriate metaphor considering the location. Has anyone else noticed how everyone is in his or her own private world these days? Everyone seems to think that his/her life sooooooooooo damn important that s/he constantly has to be on the phone, fiddling with a Blackberry/PDA/iPhone, using their computer or at the very least talking to no one in particular very loudly about HOW DAMN IMPORTANT I AM AND THAT THE ONLY REASON NOBODY IS CALLING IS BECAUSE THEY KNOW HOW DAMN BUSY AND IMPORTANT I ACTUALLY AM. People forget the reason that mankind invented the headphone is so I don’t have to listen to your crappy music. The reason mankind invented the PC is so I don’t have to be subjected to your online movie. The reason mankind invented the ball gag is so I don’t have to listen to your bullshit conversation or sad-assed attempt at rapping like JayZ.
So here I am, in the midst of all this: people watching porn, having a lover’s spat or on the phone trying to score a dime bag like they’re in the comfort and safety of their own homes. The problem is they are not in their own homes. It’s a simple equation: 1 average idiot + 1 electronic device = people who completely forget they are in public, and that maybe, just maybe, the rest of us don’t want to deal with them. Oh, and there’s smokers in line too, generally next to the sign that says “California State Law: No Smoking Within 20 Feet of a Public Building.” I have bad allergies, and I can’t tolerate cigarette smoke these days. Not only that, but I figure if you’re going to break the law and blow smoke in my face, you at least owe me the courtesy of smoking pot instead.
No trip is wasted. I learned some important things, which I will now inflict upon you.
- Janicey is having man problems. He wouldn’t hardly talk to her at the club last night, and if he was all gonna be like that; he could just stay off her damn phone. Which I think is weird, because I saw her dial the damn phone. Anyway, he really shouldn’t keep talking shit to her and telling her that nothing is wrong because something is wrong and he can just either tell her just hang up that damn phone. Damn straight, Janicey.
- The couple in front of me is a newly minted item. (I doubt they’re newly weds, seriously, most of the newly weds I meet these days have lived together at least a couple years and have the juvenile PDA thing worked out of their system.) She has low self esteem/low self-worth, and so it doesn’t matter that she picked up the last loser passed out on the floor of the men’s room in a dive bar. It is important she “keep the relationship hot” by allowing him to put his hands down her pants and grope her bare ass in public. Sexy, sexy. I think I’m going home to vomit. Or take a shower. Or possibly both.
- Headphones don’t work as a personal listening device when the music is turned up so loud it can be heard three people back in line. Thank God it’s mariachi this time and not something totally mindless like Lil’ Wayne, or God forbid Phil Collins, Michael Bolton, Bobby Vinton or something else beyond the limits of good taste.
- How a cell phone works is this: You pick up the phone, you dial a number, the phone connects you via satellite, radio or microwaves and the person on the other end answers. You both can talk, preferably at a normal volume. How the cell phone does not work is: You pick up the phone, dial the number and then proceed to talk/scream so loud that the person could hear you without the phone anyway.
- Tom has back problems, and he’s been off on disability for weeks now. These damn DMV people don’t understand that he just doesn’t have all day to stand in this line, even though like many of us these days, Tom is out of work at the moment. He just doesn’t have the damn time, and he shouldn’t have to wait like this. Those damn security guards have no damn right to tell him where he can and can’t have a smoke. Tom is special. Tom is probably fresh out of OC, and should be let in the front of the line to avoid further incident.
- If your pants are belted and situated below your ass cheeks, your pants are not actually on. Since when has it been appropriate to walk around with your ass hanging out of your pants? Isn’t that indecent exposure or something? I tapped the young man on the shoulder and said in the most gentle, Christ-like way possible, “Pssst, I think you have a couple of skid marks back there.” He didn’t, but the look on his face sure was amusing. I didn’t make any friends that day.
Okay, back to the DMV. How the line works at a California DMV is this: you go to the main routing desk and get a code from somebody who is NOT THERE TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS. This person even has a sign: “Do NOT ask operator questions. They can NOT answer questions.” I’m not sure if that’s a sanity saver for the operator, if it’s an insult to the operator, or if the operator is just that incompetent. You sit in the waiting area waiting for your code to show up. The code is a random combination of numbers and letters. The announcer just calls a code at random. There is no preference given to alphabetical or numerical order. It’s just like the lottery, only a lot more annoying and you eventually end up having to give the money back to the state. You can’t read, you can’t listen to an iPod, you can’t take out your needlework and you can’t leave for any reason. Your number may come up any time, and they are not responsible for finding you. You are now a prisoner of the DMV, trapped in an uncomfortable plastic chair in a room that smells like a combination of wet vinyl floor, car exhaust, cheap perfume and ass. Isn’t this addressed by the Geneva Convention? Shouldn’t somebody at least look into it for me?
They paroled me two hours later and even gave me a new parking placard as a souvenir. All in all, the day went well, except for the possible lung cancer and a rare skin disease I picked up from the plastic chair. It only took me two hours to de-louse and wash the stench of humanity off afterward. I managed to take care of some paperwork that should have been processed six weeks ago but for the fact that somebody in Sacramento didn’t think it was necessary to actually look for my notarized signature on the form. Good to know the state is still hiring the best and brightest from the vast labor pool that is our state. The quote of the day came from the nice lady I talked to at the courtesy desk at the DMV, “I have never seen anything like this before in my life. Now why in the hell did they do that?”
I couldn’t agree with her more myself.